Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Music Hardware Apple Technology

Apple Homepod Review: Locked In (theverge.com) 73

On Tuesday, the review embargo lifted for full reviews of Apple's new HomePod smart speaker. The Verge's Niley Patel shared his thoughts on Apple's new HomePod in video and written form. Patel found that while it offers best-in-class sound for the price, Siri is frustratingly limited and the voice controls only work with Apple Music. Furthermore, Siri can't tell different voices apart, therefore raising some privacy concerns as anyone can come up to the speaker and ask Siri to send and read text messages and other private information aloud. Here's an excerpt from the report: The HomePod, whether Apple likes it or not, is the company's answer to the wildly popular Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers. Apple is very insistent that the $349 HomePod has been in development for the past six years and that it's entirely focused on sound quality, but it's entering a market where Amazon is advertising Alexa as a lovable and well-known character during the Super Bowl instead of promoting its actual features. Our shared expectations about smart speakers are beginning to settle in, and outside of engineering labs and controlled listening tests, the HomePod has to measure up. And while it's true that the HomePod sounds incredible -- it sounds far better than any other speaker in its price range -- it also demands that you live entirely inside Apple's ecosystem in a way that even Apple's other products do not. The question is: is beautiful sound quality worth locking yourself even more tightly into a walled garden? As for technical specifications, the HomePod comes in at 6.8 inches high, 5.6 inches wide, and weights 5.5 pounds. It features a high-excursion woofer with custom amplifier, array of seven horn-loaded tweeters, each with its own custom amplifier, six-microphone array, internal low-frequency calibration microphone for automatic bass correction, direct and ambient audio beamforming, and transparent studio-level dynamic processing.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Apple Homepod Review: Locked In

Comments Filter:
  • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2018 @07:49PM (#56080191)
    How much does it spy on you?
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by sehlat ( 180760 )

      How much does it spy on you?

      Does it matter? Any device that locks you in to a particular vendor/manufacturer automatically makes you their product. And once they've done that, remember the words of the late and unlamented Darth Vader.

      I am changing our bargain. Pray I do not alter it further.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The same as PRISM had to but with a 24/7 live mic and more voice prints.
      The NSA and FBI are happy with the listening in tests and the design approval embargo is lifted.
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot.worf@net> on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @03:38AM (#56082045)

      How much does it spy on you?

      Not as much as Google or Amazon. Because all the reviews are saying how limited Siri is. And Siri is limited because Apple is holding it back. Siri is limited to simple on-device commands that are handled locally without cloud involvement, or when using the cloud, very limited engagements.

      Apple's privacy policies are tough, and compartmentalized. The Siri team is blocked for requests to other user data not already given to Siri - as in they can ask, but they won't be able to get at it. Doesn't matter that Apple has that information, if the privacy policy says Siri cannot get at it, that data simply doesn't exist.

      Why do you think Google/Alphabet harmonized data sharing so your data is shared freely by everyone at Alphabet? Because having access to all that data makes Google's assistant much better. Google Assistant knows you better, and can answer you better. Siri is basically limited to simple interactions only. The reviews show that while Siri listens well, it does not respond as well

      Heck, knowing Apple, Siri probably is afraid to hit the cloud server and tries to do as much as possible on device. Less data Apple has is less data to give to the government, and is much easier to simply say "that is information we do not have because the devices never send it to us" than to have to fight the courts because you do have it, but because of reason X, the government can't get it. (See Microsoft's fight at not having to turn over cloud data stored in another country.). Better to not have that information and have the FBI bitching and whining about Apple not collecting that information than the FBI bitching and whining that Apple is deliberately obstructing justice by not turning over the data. Because eventually some event will happen that tugs at heart strings so much, everyone will just go and demand you release the information.

      Anyhow, I'll wait for the HomePod version 2. The revision that Apple will do and will add audio input jacks to. It is classical Apple after all - release something that does a narrow thing very well, but has limitations, then revise it to have the missing features people want put back in. I'm sure a lot of this is simply in making sure the technology used is robust and works well.

      And you know some third party will probably make a wireless adapter that takes audio in and plays it through the HomePod, too.

      • Third party, as in:
        Alexa, can you tell Siri to...

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        How much does it spy on you?

        Not as much as Google or Amazon. Because all the reviews are saying how limited Siri is. And Siri is limited because Apple is holding it back. Siri is limited to simple on-device commands that are handled locally without cloud involvement, or when using the cloud, very limited engagements.

        Hmmm, you're assuming it isn't recording you 24/7 and selling that data to third parties because the interface is terrible.

        Apple are as bad as Amazon at selling your data and worse than Google. Google are at least honest about it and give you a reasonable assurance that they've taken steps to anonymise it. In fact I'd say they're worse than Amazon too, Amazon advertise products you might like based on your search and buying patterns, Apple tries to make sure your next purchase has to be an Apple device.

      • Your logic is flawed. It having limited actions means nothing to listening capabilities, you even said Siri listens fine. You don't think the device is recording each voice activation? It's already discussed on /. how they "anonymize" the data for 6 months and strip it further and store for another longer period. If anything, they need all your data more than Amazon and Google because they are years behind in the tech.
  • "Apple is very insistent that the $349 HomePod has been in development for the past six years and that it's entirely focused on sound quality,"

    C'mon. HiFi has been around since the 1950's. It doesn't take six years for a multi-billion dollar company to R&D good sound. I'll give them a bit of a break, though - they did buy Beats, which definitely set them back a bit.
    • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

      C'mon. HiFi has been around since the 1950's. It doesn't take six years for a multi-billion dollar company to R&D good sound.

      Getting good sound by sitting between two medium to large-sized speakers properly located (rule of 3rds) and toed in is easy. Getting good sound from a small cylinder placed arbitrarily in a room is difficult.

      • Re:HiFi. (Score:4, Funny)

        by Carewolf ( 581105 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @05:21AM (#56082345) Homepage

        C'mon. HiFi has been around since the 1950's. It doesn't take six years for a multi-billion dollar company to R&D good sound.

        Getting good sound by sitting between two medium to large-sized speakers properly located (rule of 3rds) and toed in is easy. Getting good sound from a small cylinder placed arbitrarily in a room is difficult.

        Considering Apple is the leading vendor in low-fidelity head-phones. I suspect the trick is simple to TELL people is has great audio, and most of their customers would believe it without having anything to compare to.

        • Or, we can take a look at the design of the thing a do a little critical thinking.

          Most bluetooth speakers have one speaker aiming forward or up. So they sound OK if you are in front of a front-firing speaker, or mediocre if you are near an upward-firing speaker. We have a Riva X that has three speakers in an angled array, so if it's against a wall it fills the room pretty well.

          The Apple device has speakers surrounding it, which is the design you want if you want to be able to place it anywhere in a room. I'

        • by torkus ( 1133985 )

          They didn't buy bose yet, did they?

          • They didn't buy bose yet, did they?

            I said headphones, not loud speakers. But I am sure Bose is next if they want to continue in this direction.

    • Where else can you find a speaker with beam forming for that price? Generally you have to look to spend about $20,000 to get that kinda setup.
      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        If you like soun defects, just admit it. Never met a violin which did beam forming.
      • SONOS, for about $499. The Play:5 does it, and sounds really, really good...
        • So, I'm looking at the product page for the Play:5 [sonos.com] and I'm not seeing any information to support your claim that the Play:5 does beamforming. Now, I'm not an expert, but I don't find the lack of beamforming to be particularly surprising, simply given the design of the Play:5.

          In a nutshell, speaker beamforming is (at least in this context) used to ensure that the sound from nearer speakers hits your ears at the same time as the sound from more distant speakers. The result is a tighter, better "sweet spot" fo

    • beamforming tweeters and autocalibration?

      that's dsp magic.

      nothing 50's or 60's based. nothing at all.

  • As a lifelong Wintel guy who recently bought a MacBook Pro, I'm shocked how well it works with my iPhone, and how many angles of real functionality there are.

    I'm shocked at how long the battery lasts with Safari, and I'm shocked at how well Office 365 runs on Safari.

    We're well past the age of landline telephones, where things just had to work, even during a natural disaster. Most products, with their promises of infinite configurability and infinite interoperability, just plain don't work these days. I'm

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, Apple cares so much about privacy they go toe-to-toe with the Feds in a mutual PR play for theatrically challenged people,
      while FBI gets the info in the background from China in a trade deal, since China actually has full access to Apple devices as part of a deal where Apple gets to keep its cheap massive factory force and infrastructure in China including access to 1.3 billion people of potential buyers in return for giving its balls to China. Nothing like using an external source while making an int

  • I can't be alone with this question. Conceivably I could replace my ok but bulky floor standing speakers with a pair of Homepods. Provided they indeed sound good to my taste.
    But, I would want to use it for ALL my audio sources. I also have an AV preamp that is used for several sources: tv audio, CDs (these can perhaps be dropped) and BluRay discs, and eventually a game console when the kids are old enough.
    Ideally I would take the analog out of my AV preamp (or alternatively extract digitally from the hdmi
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      Get a pair of SONOS Play:5 speakers. MUCH better sound quality, and they have an analog input - so you can use your older gear. Oh, and they also stream all the other services, not just Apple Music.
      • Actually I was not impressed by the sound of any Sonos speaker. I have not yet heard the Homepod, not sure if I’ll find it good enough but eager to see it in action - the reviews are uniform in extolling the audio quality. In the end I might give up on the idea and just replace my big floorstanders with small speakers, though I like the idea of using the homepods for music streaming without switching on the hifi, and only switching it on for other sources incl tv sound.
        • Forgot to mention that direct support of apple music is sufficient for me. Some other services can be airplayed. I think that I could airplay netflix audio from the apple tv to it but must check (can anyone confirm?). It is for me really a matter of also adding non-computer sourced audio from analog line level or derived from hdmi.
    • Airfoil [rogueamoeba.com] and Airfoil Satellite [rogueamoeba.com] are in the vein of what you’re looking for, so far as software goes. There’s also AirParrot [airsquirrels.com] that can act as a sender. You might be able to use Airfoil Satellite with an old iPod Touch receiving audio through the 3.5mm headphone/mic jack, which then transmits it back to Airfoil on a PC/Mac, which then transmits it via AirPlay to the HomePods, but I have no idea if that’d actually work and it sounds like way too brittle of a workflow.

      Besides which, why introduce

      • Exactly - “brittleness” of the chain and latency are worrying. Currently the best option seems to be an old tascam acquisition module that can accept line in next to mic to the digital connector of an old iphone/touch and then use a software that acts like an airplay megaphone. If it works well, remains to be seen.
        It looks to me like the kind of device that would be successful on kickstarter.
        • Well, on the good side, it sounds like reducing latency has been a major focus for Airplay 2, which is due out for the HomePod via software update in a few months, so it may become more viable. Even so, I not convinced there’s a huge market for that sort of thing. Seems to me they could simply enable Bluetooth support using the existing hardware the HomePod has to eliminate the market for a device like that, given that you could then use one of the existing analog to Bluetooth adapters that exist.

    • Honestly, all the engineering done here seems to be with the intention of mitigating shortcomings inherent in having all your speakers sitting in a tiny box that gets placed on the kitchen shelf, or on top of a bar in the center of the room, or some other suboptimal spot. Cool, it's got automatic bass response correction... but where is that bass going to go when it leaves the plastic speaker container? The laws of physics, specifically acoustics, still apply - where the speakers are placed will have a *hug
      • Actually, make that $700 since we're talking about buying two. That'll get you into professional studio monitor territory... I know $700 is the going rate for entry into cramped luxury living at Apple Apartment Homes... but out in the real world it'll buy you a whole lot.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Those are not Technical Specifications. They are artsy-fartsy drivel.

    The "real" technical specifications are:

    Frequency Response: 200 Hz to 12 kHz +/- 20 dB
    The -3dB response is 1kHz to 8kHz.

  • Apple does it again.
    Did they even test the thing?
    • I actually applied to the test group for the home pod.

      I left comments a while back - people here took my comments out of context and blamed ME for them.

      so, I won't repeat what I said before, but suffice to say, I was not convinced they knew what they were doing, during test. and I guess the product now shows that, sigh.

  • ... and it's a total non-starter in this, otherwise all Apple, household, because it's simply too expensive to risk setting out in the open, in a house full of highly destructive children. Honestly, nothing at all about the HomePod seems to take into account typical multi-member households, and yet the keystone feature seems to want to shout, "Share my wonders with all your friends!"

    Such a shame. But, ya know... perhaps next year's revision will be worth a look, eh?

  • Is this worse than the repair policy on the Amazon Echo? I couldn't find a number anywhere with a quick search, but it wouldn't shock me to learn that it costs 70-80% of the original retail price to send the thing back to Amazon for an out of warranty repair.

    The real question is in how user-repairable the device is. Can you easily replace individual speakers (the part most likely to fail)? Given Apple's recent history I'm not overly optimistic...but we'll see what iFixit has to say.

The tree of research must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of bean counters. -- Alan Kay

Working...